The most famous myth lore in the Native American culture is probably the Coyote (also known as Akba-Atatdia, First-Scolder, Old-Man, and Old-Man-Coyote). The Coyote is the ubiquitous Trickster God and Cultural Hero of the Native American mythology. In most stories he appears as an animal but he can also appear as a man, or just a power – a sacred being.
The Coyote is always in the Creation stories as most Native American tribes believe that he is the ‘assistant’ to the Great Chief Above – the Creator of everything. The Creator can shun the Coyote, punish me and take away his powers. The Coyote’s job is to create new landscapes and to deliver sacred things to people. To some tribes such as the Wasco tribe, the Coyote is the killer of monsters. According to their tradition, Coyote is the hero to fight and kill Thunderbird, the killer of people, but he never made it. The Wasco tribe also believe that Coyote is supposed to do the same against the Raven (Crow). The Coyote is generally always a trickster throughout tradition but sometimes he is a noble trickster and other times, a devious trickster. Coyote has some positive traits such as humour and cleverness, but also some negative ones, for example greed, desire, recklessness, impulsiveness and jealousy. Coyote is the brother of the Wolf.
There are many stories about Coyote such as the Spying Moon. Someone stole the moon, therefore Coyote offered to replace the moon. The reason Coyote did this was so that he could see everything. But as the trickster, he told everyone what everyone else was doing and before long, people were so annoyed with him and wanted to vote him out of the sky.
The character of Coyote is also used in rituals with a ritual named after him – The Coyote Ritual. This ritual is performed to help retrieve something that was lost e.g. when someone has lost some money. Each participant takes the part of Coyote, keeping the item of value away from the others – the trickster.
The logo opposite is from the British Columbia website and includes the raven (top left) and the coyote (bottom right) to represent First Nations learning and teaching. The human face in the middle of the logo symbolizes the children of the earth. There is a Metis symbol (it looks like a figure of eight which is from the Metis flag) is also incorporated into the logo. The four points around the logo are called Inuksuk which is the symbol for the Inuit. The points symbolize vision and direction.
Coyote means a lot to me as a scholar as our graduation piece is based on the culture of the Native Americans. To get a better understanding of the culture behind the Natives, we must look at Coyote as he is the basis of much of their culture. Coyote is almost a gateway to understanding the way of life a whole lot more, as well as understanding the religious and spiritual beliefs of the Native Americans.
• Encyclopedia Mythica (1997) Coyote [online] available from: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/coyote.html [accessed 31.03.2009]
• (2006) Gods from Native American Mythology… Coyote, Godchecker, Inc. [online] available from: http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/native_american-mythology.php?deity=COYOTE [accessed 31.03.2009]
• (2009) Coyote (mythology), Wikipedia [online] available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote_(mythology) [accessed 31.03.2009]
• (2009) Aboriginal Education Enhancements Branch, British Columbia [online] available from: http://test.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/logo_description.htm [accessed 31.03.2009]